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From The Sixties - Indonesia | Poem

From “The Sixties”
By Jodey Bateman

Excerpt from 1965 – Section 9

Indonesia, which had 100 million people, was the largest country in Southeast Asia. It was the largest Muslim country in the world. Though most of Indonesians were poor, Indonesia was the richest country in natural resources, especially oil, in Southeast Asia. American, European and Japanese corporations  were  involved and all invested in Indonesia.

Indonesia had been a Dutch colony until 1942. After independence it was led by the charismatic, temperamental President Sukarno. (Like most Indonesians, he had no last name.)

Sukarno led his people for 18 years with a loose sort of dictatorship that he called “guided democracy”. He hoped to be the leader of a new bloc of former colonies. In 1955 he called a conference of Non-Aligned Countries at Bandung, Indonesia. Most of the countries who sent representatives were former colonies, mostly non-white.

Communist China was allowed to send a representative, its Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, but the Soviet Union was not allowed to take part. The US offered to send a black State Department official as a representative, but no official US representative was allowed, although black congressman Adam Clayton Powell (Democrat of New York) went as an observer.

The only European leader who took part was Josip Tito of Yugoslavia, which was a Communist country that received military aid from the US and claimed to be independent of both US and Soviet Union.

Sukarno’s conference at Bandung was an inspiration to both Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X.

Rev. King ad Malcom X could see that hundreds of millions of non-white people were being formed into a huge bloc. The Soviet Union and the US would compete for the friendship of this bloc. If American blacks could get this great non-white bloc concerned with their problems, the US government would have to do something to ed racial discrimination – or the non-white bloc might turn to the Soviet Union. Rev. King and Malcom X both based their strategies on trying to attract the attention of the non-white bloc which Indonesian President Sukarno was trying to set up at Bandong.

A few months after the Non-Aligned Conference in Bandung, Rev. King called his boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama.

More than once after that, the CIA attempted to overthrow President Sukarno. When that filed, the basic US strategy was to use the Indonesian Army leadership, which was very anti-Communist and pro-US, to weaken Sukaro’s power. As it was, Sukarno’s control was based on his popularity, although he was disliked by Indonesia’s wealthy and also by Muslim fundamentalists and by regional separatist groups. Sukarno had very little control over his army.

One of Sukaro’s basess of support was Indonesia’s Communist Party – three million members. It was the largest Communist Party outside the Soviet bloc and also one of the largest parties in Indonesia. Most of its members were uneducated peasants with very little knowledge of Communist theory. Many Communist Party members were believers in the Muslim religion – although the Muslim fundamentalist groups were anti-Communist. When Communist China and the Soviet Union began to have a bitter feud, the Indonesian Communist Party was the only major Communist party to support China.

To counter the influence of the Communist Party, and undermine Sukarno, the US gave lots of weapons and money to the Indonesian Army. Indonesian Army officers were trained in programs set up by Michigan State University (which also set up programs to train South Vietnamese officers). The Michigan State training program had strong links with the CIA.

In 1964, Sukarno allowed groups of poor peasants led by Communist Party members to seize the estates of the big land owners. The Indonesia Army was alarmed.

Then in January, 1965, Indonesia was having a border dispute with Malaysia. That month the United Nations seated Malaysia as a member of the Security Council, which has a certain amount of authority in matters like border disputes. Sukarno withdrew Indonesia from the United Nations and said he would organize a new group of revolutionary countries.

To help Sukarno, on February 20, 1965, there was a World Revolutionary Conference of governments and organizations from Asia and Africa. It was held in Algiers, the capitol of Algeria. Malcom X was supposed to attend this conference, but was murdered six days before it began. The Latin American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara attended the conference as a representative of Cuba.

It seems almost as if the sending of so many US troops to South Vietnam was an attempt to intimidate this new revolutionary bloc. Also the presence of American GI’s in Vietnam gave encouragement to anti-Communist military leaders in nearby Indonesia and other  Asian and African countries. On June 25th, 1965 Algeria’s President Ahmad Ben Bella was overthrown by a coup. Sukarno lost a major ally.

In Indonesia a clash between pro-Communists and anti-Communists was inevitable but the pro-Communists apparently struck the first blow – though this is not certain. The night of September 30, 1965, a group of Indonesian Army officers kidnapped seven generals. Although these generals were anti-Communist, they were almost the only strong supporters of Sukarno in the army. Six of them were killed and one – General Nasution – escaped. Other Indonesian generals led by General Suharto, age 44, a strong opponent of President Sukarno, used the kidnappings and killings as an excuse to take over the government. They kept Sukarno as president, but took away his powers.

The generals set up the 30th of September Movement, named for the kidnapping and the killings. The initials 30th of September Movement I Indonesia’s official language spell Gestapu – almost like the name of Nazi Germany’s secret police, the Gestapo.

Indonesia’s Gestapu organized groups of fundamentalist Muslim youths to kill Commuist Party members and their families. The “Encyclopedia Americana” says they killed 250,000 people. “Collier’s Encyclopedia”  says they killed 400,000. The “Encyclopedia Briticanica” says estimates of how many they killed range from 80,000 to a million. US Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, estimated that at least 300,000 were killed. Another 100,000 suspected Communists were put in prison camps.

Secretary of Defense McNamara testified to Congress that US training of Indonesia’s Army had “paid dividends.” McNamara told Congress that US military aid “encouraged (the Indonesia Army) to move against the PKI (Communist Party) when the opportunity was present.”

McNamara told President Johnson that programs working with the Indonesia military, run by US colleges like Michigan State were “very significant factors in determining favorable orientation of the new Indonesian political elite” – meaning the new military dictatorship.

James Reston, one of the star columnists of the “New York Times” called the Indonesian coup “A Gleam of Light in Asia,” but he was frank enough about how it was done. In his words:

“Washington is being careful not to claim any credit for this change in the sixth most populous and one of the richest nations in the world, but that does not mean that Washington had nothing to do with it. There was a great deal more contact between the anti-Communist forces and at least one very high Washington official before and during the Indonesian massacre than is generally recognized.”

The CIA in its “Research Study on Indonesia” admitted that what it had encouraged was “one of the worst mass murders of the twentieth century.”

The US and a group of western industrialized countries gave the new Indonesian military government $18 billion in aid through the International Monetary Fund.

C. L. Sulzberger of the “New York Times” said about Indonesia, “Almost everybody is pleased by the changes being wrought.”

According to Kathy Kadane of State News Service, right before the coup of the US Empassy in Djakarta, Indonesia’s capital, gave the Indonesian Amry a list of 5,000 suspected Communists. Robert Martens, an embassy staffer, told Kadane “Giving the manes really was a big help to the Indonesian army. They probably killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There are times you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.”

So American GI’s in Vietnam were part of a much larger thrust by the US against revolutionary tendencies, not only in Vietnam, but Indonesia and many other countries. Indonesia 1965 was a major victory against the world revolutionary movement. “Time” magazine called the coup and massacre of real and alleged Communists “The West’s best news for years in Asia.”

Not only did Indonesia’s fundamentalist Muslims support the coup. Another major coup supporter was Indonesian Christian labor leader Ais Pomanes. Pomanes, the head of a confederation of labor unions was the Indonesian national leader of Campus Crusade for Christ International. Campus Crusade’s headquarters were Arrowhead Springs in Southern California. Campus Crusade sponsors included Rev. Billy Graham, the leading revivalist in the U.S. Other Campus Crusade sponsors included former US Representative Walter Judd, Republican of Minnesota, who had been a missionary in China before their revolution.

The leader of Campus Crusade was Dr. William Bright, who was on very friendly terms with Rev. Fred Schwartz, head of the right-wing Christian Anti-Communist Crusade. A big contributor to Campus Crusade was H. L. Hunt, Texas oil millionaire, who also contributed to Elizah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam because it supported separation between the races.

Indonesian Christian labor leader Pomanes said that after the coup many Indonesians converted to Christianity. Apparently they identified becoming Christians with accommodating themselves to the growing power of the US in Indonesia.

As late as 1990, Stephen G. Rosenfeld, a senior editor of the liberal Democratic “Washington Post” wrote about the 1965 coup and mass killing in Indonesia:

“This fearsome slaughter…was and still is, regarded as the grim but earned fate of a conspiratorial revolutionary party that represented the same Communist movement that was on the march in Vietnam. Though the means were grievously tainted we…can be said to have enjoyed the fruits in the geopolitical stability of that part of Asia, in the revolution that never happened.”

Even Hitler or Stalin or Cambodia’s Pol Pot could not have put it better than the “Washington Post’s Rosenfeld, the representative of America’s “great middle of the road.”

Among US politicians, only Robert Kennedy opposed the coup in Indonesia.

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